All this week, we’ll be running a series of previews of the 2020 Orlando City squad, going position by position and giving you the scoop on every player on the roster. Today, we’ll begin with the men between the pipes.
Any player looking to score goals against Orlando City this season is going to have their work cut out for them. Not only will they have to deal with one of the league’s stingiest defensive minds in Head Coach Oscar Pareja, but even if someone manages to get through on goal, they’ll have El Pulpo to answer to.
Pedro Gallese, a national hero in his home country of Peru, joins the Lions as their first-choice goalkeeper for 2020. If his international resume is anything to go by, Gallese should immediately establish himself as one of the top keepers in MLS. The Peruvian has been Los Incas’ No. 1 since 2014, leading the squad to three Copa Americas and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
El Pulpo knows what it’s like to face pressure. Gallese helped take Peru to the World Cup for the first time since 1982, allowing just two goals in Los Incas’ three games in the tournament. Gallese also saved a Luis Suarez penalty to secure Peru a massive upset over Uruguay in the 2019 Copa America, which eventually led to their first appearance in the tournament’s final since 1975.
2020 is a Copa America year, which means El Pulpo will need a strong No. 2 behind him for games when he’ll be away with Peru. Enter Brian Rowe, perhaps the top backup in MLS after a strong 2019 season in which he started 32 of the Lions’ 34 league games. Rowe signed for the club just a week prior to the 2019 season opener after a free trial and instantly took the starting job, saving 110 shots over the course of the campaign, good for seventh in MLS. Orlando City will be more than happy to rely on the veteran when Gallese is absent.
The Lions also have two interesting youngsters in their goalkeeper room. Homegrown Mason Stajduhar returns to the Lions in 2020 after spending 2019 on loan with USL Championship side Tulsa Roughnecks. Stajduhar, who fought and overcame bone cancer in 2018 and is still just 22 years old, appeared in last year’s MLS Homegrown Game in Orlando and will continue to develop in 2020. Orlando City also drafted Austin Aviza out of Providence College in the second round. Aviza, who also spent time at Syracuse and UConn as a college player, is expected to compete for time with Orlando City B.
Tomorrow, we take a look at how Orlando City’s defense is shaping up for 2020.